Children should come first in Attawapiskat
We are one of the most affluent nations in the world and at the very least we expect all of our children to have shelter, clean water and sanitation, and access to school.
Our government also agreed to this when Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. Basic provisions like shelter, sanitation and education are not needs, they are rights all children have – including the children in Attawapiskat.
All levels of government share the responsibility with communities and families to provide for and protect these rights.
This means the best interests of children must be central in resolving disputes over governance or funding models. Canada has the resources and the know-how to provide shelter, sanitation and education to the Attawapiskat community.
If we paid closer attention to our international commitments, we would recall our obligation to put children first and ensure the rights of all Canadian children are realized. Canadians who want to see this happen can join UNICEF Canada and insist our governments and institutions fulfill the commitments to children outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child by establishing a National Children’s Commissioner.
Canada is one of the few countries in the industrialized world that lacks a dedicated advocate in the federal government to monitor the protection of children’s rights, promote their best interests in governance and facilitate effective service delivery.
With a National Children’s Commissioner we can ensure all of our children are visible to government at all times, not just when a crisis emerges in the headlines, like the tragedy we are seeing in Attawapiskat.
If you want to support the Attawapiskat community in the meantime, you can give through the North South Partnership for First Nations Children (www.northsouthpartnership.com).
The North South Partnership for Children is a collaboration between philanthropic organizations, universities and private citizens in Southern Ontario and thirty remote First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario. UNICEF Canada’s Lisa Wolff is a member of the North South Partnership’s Governance Circle.